I believe ‘the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page’. I am Arun Kumar an engineer from Chennai, yes the same Chennai where our PM Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping visited for an informal summit. For a passionate backpacker like me, travelling is not only fun but it’s a way from me to learn more about myself. When I take the road I have learned to accept everything that comes my way and adapt to any situation. So here’s my personal journey and your guide to being a solo traveller and backpacker.
How I Became A Backpacker?
Ever since my childhood, I always had the notion to be a traveller, but I needed to be rich. After my degree, I had a total workaholic life. The goals of my life intertwined with my goals at work – meeting targets, deadlines and managing the work pressure. No matter how much I earned and how hard I worked, I always felt that I didn’t earn enough to become a traveler. When my father retired from his job and was ready to take care of my mother, the situation posed as a window for me to take a step towards my travel desires.
After some thorough research, I finally had my Eureka moment when I came to know about the concept of ‘backpacking’. It was the cheapest and best way to travel the world. And all my myths of having to become rich to travel the world, shattered in a minute. I could now, have my cake and eat it too.
But first, I had to convince my parents about my new lifestyle choice. As you know, it can be quite tough to deal with Indian parents at times. Nevertheless, their support and blessings make everything achievable. But I did have a plan to convince them. My father loves Japan and Japanese products. So I hosted a Japanese traveller at my place. I made him tell my family, the benefits and learnings I could experience from travel. And that’s how my family realized how beautiful travel can be to hone a person’s skills.
So on 23rd November 2018, I quit my full-time job and became a full-time backpacker. I was free, happy and most of all I could now do whatever I want. And that’s a unique feeling. For all those people who still think that you need tons of money to travel the world, I hope my travel stories and tips can inspire you too.
Planning A Budget Trip
When it comes to planning a budget trip, first and foremost I pre-plan the countries and places I intend to go. I install an app on my mobile to calculate my day to day budget while travelling. I maintain a per-day budget of ₹100 to ₹120. This is the way I plan my trip keeping a strict per day budget in mind.
Every budget traveller, like me, has to spend on 3 basic things- Transportation, Food and Accommodation. So let me break it up to you and give you an insight about how I plan my trip and what I do to maintain my budget regarding Transportation, Food and Accommodation.
Transportation While Backpacking
Contrary to popular beliefs, transport is an expensive affair while travelling. But in the backpacking route, it’s not. I travel all over the country only by hitchhiking. Whether it’s travelling by private car, motorbike, truck, mini truck, caravan or a van, hitchhiking is my go-to for a commute. In this way, I never spend on transportation even if it’s within the city or the highways I just opt for hitchhiking.
If I don’t get a lift I walk further way for a nice place to get a lift, so based on the situation I change my journey that’s how I travelled more than 4000 km. Another plus point about hitchhiking is the opportunity to have beautiful conversations with the locals. Be it sharing stories, having a meal together or even discussing our lives in general, hitchhiking has brought about plenty of lovely memories in my life.
Accommodation While Backpacking
The Couch Surfing app on my phone is a real blessing for a backpacker like me. About 80% of the time I do get great, reasonable accommodation wherever I go. Whether the people whose homes I stay in are men or women, it doesn’t matter to me. I am happy to adjust to their homes even if they don’t have a bed. Most of the time during my travel, I do get my place for rest sorted.
Couch surfing also helps me to experience authentic local food, lifestyle and immerse myself in the culture of the place. People are warm and hospitable and its a great experience for me. There are also times when I don’t find a place to spend the night. So I always carry a sleeping bag and a tent with me. During those times I find a temple, stupa, church, mosque, school or even a college and pitch my tent there to rest for the night.
Food While Backpacking
When it comes to food, around 90% of the time during my travel, I avoid eating at restaurants. I instead have dried grapes and chickpeas. I soak chickpeas at night and eat it in the morning. It’s nutritious and easy to eat. In urgent cases, I buy fruits and vegetables and cook them. Sometimes I even volunteer to do some kind of work in exchange for a meal. My photography skills come into play and I click wonderful photos in exchange for the food or accommodation. This is how I have travelled around 7456 km for 6 months by spending just around ₹23,550. Yes, it requires a lot of patience and commitment, but the result is just extraordinary.
The Places I Have Visited
I have visited many places in India and even its neighbouring countries. As a solo traveller and backpacker, I have visited Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Agra, Delhi, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Assam, Sikkim, Manipur and even countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand and Myanmar.
And out of all these places I have visited, if you ask me one place that stands out the most, I would definitely say it’s Nepal. Can you imagine that I actually went trekking there, without even spending a single dime? Yes, I know it’s hard to believe. But with a bit of luck, miracles can happen, and before you know it, you to could be standing atop the Himalayas asking yourself, “how did I do this!?” From this journey I hope to create awareness that anyone can travel the world – you don’t have to be rich. Thinking back on my travels, so far this idea drove me the most.
Trekking In Nepal
While I may be a solo traveller I didn’t do this alone, a lot of people have helped me to do this and without them what I have done would never have been possible. When I walked deeper into the Himalayas, I soon realized why Nepal is known to be one of the best places in the world to trek. If you’re travelling to Nepal, irrespective of your ability or fitness, you MUST trek. You’ll be missing out on a huge part of what the country has to offer if you don’t!
When it came to food, to be honest, the prices of food while trekking is pricey for Nepali standards because they need to transport all food and materials via jeep or mule from the cities up to the mountains. Even though I was on a very low budget with the help of my now fellow Nepali friends I was able to get through the trek. And I couldn’t have done it without them. From this trip, I’ve come to realize the real genuine kindness of Nepali people.
Then comes the question, which trek is ‘the’ one for me? First and foremost it depends on how many days you have and are prepared to walk for. Some of the most popular, rewarding and beautiful treks include- Everest base camp – 5380 meters (10 days), Annapurna base camp – 4130 meters ( 8 days), Poon Hill – 3210 meters (3 days) and Mardi Himal – 4580 metres (5 days). Out of all these incredible treks, I choose the 5 days trek to Mardi Himal, where I covered around 4580 metres. Besides, check out Inspirational Story Of Megha Parmar: First Woman From Madhya Pradesh To Climb Mount Everest
My Favourite Trek- Mardi Himal
My Insane Experience In Uttar Pradesh
Around 1:30 am in the midnight, I was fast asleep in the truck when the driver stopped and told me to get down in Lalitpur. The highway was dark there were no houses around and the place was quiet and eerie. The truck driver and I were the only living beings in that area. My driver told me to get down here. But he didn’t allow me to touch my backpack. He told me to get down first, then he would help me to get my backpack. The minute the driver gave me my backpack, he started the truck and took off. And I was left wondering what the friendly truck driver with whom I had been spending my last two days, took off so suddenly without even bidding me goodbye. What did the hell happen? After a few minutes, I feel my backpack, which felt weightless. When I opened it to my utter shock there was no camera!! I got robbed. So I am standing in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, robbed of my most precious possession, my DSLR camera.
I stood still at the same place for more than 20 minutes, shocked to the core. I didn’t know what to do I was frustrated and cheated. There was no one around to help me too. And then when I was checking my mobile phone I came to know that I luckily had a photograph of the truck with its number plate. I immediately found out the nearby police station walked towards it. This was the first time in my life that I had ever entered a police station. I never expected that my journey in Uttar Pradesh would start from a police station. I was frustrated and moreover in a dilemma – whether to continue my journey or not! Imagine a situation where you enter a state for the first time and you get robbed. You don’t know how to communicate in Hindi and there is no one there to help you. Well, that’s how my situation was, on my first day in Uttar Pradesh.
Thankfully one person there knew English and I was able to explain my story to him. Within 20 minutes he took all the details regarding the truck driver, where the truck’s from, truck owner etc. I was told to wait until tomorrow until the investigations began. In the mean while thanks to Couchsurfing I got a place to stay in a Bundlekande family home. The truck owner was called by the police. He was threatened that if he doesn’t cooperate to track the driver, his truck company would be in problems. The driver was contacted and he claimed innocence. But finally claimed that ‘maybe’ I forgot my camera in his truck.
So if you are in a dilemma to go for a solo trip as a backpacker, I say just go for it. You will end up with hundreds of beautiful memories and learnings. This is one of the best examples I can give you. Do you need any more reasons to go travelling?
My Tips To People Wanting To Go Backpacking
- Minimize your desire.
- Make sure you know why you want to travel, what type of travel you’d like to do. And plan your trip according to that.
- Try to avoid purchasing anything in a tourist spot. As everything will be expensive or around 25% higher than the exact price.
- Where ever you are, try to learn the basics of the local language. Thanks to knowing the basics of the local language, I was able to buy an earplug for ₹50 which was sold for ₹450 to a tourist.
- Always track your expenditure & spending.
- Know what are the places you want to go to. Discuss with the local people and finalize the plan, because there will be some difference between what you see online and experiencing the same on the spot.
- Don’t compare your way of life and travelling style with others. That’s the very big mistake I did.
- Travel within your budget, with what you have.
- When you travel don’t get addicted to clicking too many selfies and photographs. It may lead to wastage of your valuable time.
- Carry a solar cell phone charger( to charge cell phone batteries), UV protection band( protect your hand from tanning), baseball cap( protects you from direct sun rays), lightweight walking shoes, mountain hiking socks, sleeping bag, sunscreen, passport, basic apparel, trimmer( if you’re a guy), camping tent, power bank, a good backpack, water bottle, eye mask, noise protection earplug, blanket, towel, light snacks or dried fruits.
- Hitchhiking is like riding a two-wheeler. You have a chance of 10% – 15% to meet with an accident but you still, ride with self-confidence and faith. Similarly, when it comes to hitchhiking, it’s all about the trust you have on the person. Ask to yourself, can I trust this guy or not? When you find out you’re not ok with the ride, just don’t go. If you are in between, tell them to stop and get down. Avoid hitchhiking after 7 pm.
- Use Couchsurfing and hostels for accommodation,
- Use Google Maps & Maps Me to plan and search routes.
- Go camping in or near Mosques, Stupas, pagodas, temples, churches or any spiritual shrine.
- Women solo travellers, let nothing stop you from your dreams. Take the necessary precautions and go for it. I have met a lot of women solo travellers from Slovenia, Russia, Germany, France, Netherlands, Scotland and Argentina. In fact, a Russian solo woman traveller taught me all about camping.
- Above all, have trust and faith in yourself and you can achieve anything.
My Learnings From Backpacking
Through backpacking, I found out who I am and what I am capable of. I learned more about my strengths, weaknesses what I can and what I can’t do. I learnt to survive in unfamiliar terrains and in situations where I didn’t know anything about the food, language, culture and people. My perspective on the importance of money completely changed after travelling. I realised that money is not the only important thing in my life, there are many more precious and beautiful things out there in this world. My journey as a backpacker as taught me how important it is to take a break from one’s hectic life. When my DSLR camera got stolen, I learnt the importance of perseverance and a ‘never give up’ attitude. Backpacking is definitely one of the best & cheapest ways to travel the world. So make your own route and don’t depend on anyone or anything to achieve your travel dreams.
Check out my travel stories here
This article was related to Curly Tales by Arun Kumar and written by Sanjana Shenoy. If you have a story to tell us, drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org